March 01, 2004
Oscar night

I was up all last night (i.e. this morning) watching the Oscars, which is odd because I cannot stand listening to the average Oscar acceptance speech, and have to switch over to another channel until whichever ghastly gushing American who is being given it has been lead away in tears. So why do I switch back, and carry on watching? I guess I just love a contest in which other people's dreams are crashing down in ruins, but not mine. (I often watch the Eurovision Song Contest voting, but would never dream of subjecting myself to the songs.)

I am a total patriot about Oscars. They should all of them be won by British people, every year, simply because we British are the only ones who know how to accept these things without making everyone's toes curl with embarrassment. By that standard, last night was a very bad night indeed. The Scottish Annie Lennox got one for a song she'd written, and although she sang it splendidly, her acceptance speech was sickeningly American.

scoppola.jpgEven the man – and I'm using the expression very loosely – who won the Best Actor prize spoke as if about to burst into tears at any moment, and I had to switch to NHL ice hockey or motorbiking or whatever it was (neither of which I normally pay any attention to) for the next three minutes. And as for Renée Zellweger and Charlize Theron, well, I can see why Oscar audiences contain so many people sympathetic to gun control, or there would surely be many Oscar Night murders during accceptance speeches. All Americans seem to behave like this, except the splendid Sofia Coppola (Best Original Screenplay - the one in the picture), who behaved with definitely detectable dignity. And thank god for Billy Crystal, who also knows how to keep some kind of control over his emotions.

I wonder, is everyone in the world a total patriot about Oscars? And are they total patriots for the exact same reason as I am, which is that their fellow countrymen are the only people who know how to accept Oscars in the proper manner, and all those bloody foreigners are an embarrassment/turn-off/cringe/absurdity/choose-another-bad-abstract-noun?

Do Americans find British Oscar acceptance speeches as vilely cold and heartless as I find American Oscar acceptance speeches vilely undignified and emotionally incontinent? Do American actors, when accepting Oscars, collapse in a puddle of gratitudinous sobbing on purpose?

With LOR3 (although actually what was being congratulated was the totality of LORs 1-3) doing so well, we also got to see lots of dreary New Zealander technicians making speeches. Their problem was that they sounded so pathetically apologetic. We're not worthy! We're not worthy! That was the vibe they gave off. NZers know how to look worthy winners of the Rugby World Cup (although they have rather lost the trick of actually winning it), so why can't they accept Oscars as if they think they deserved them? (Ghastly thought: maybe when the All Blacks do finally win the Rugby World Cup again, their captain will break down in tears.)

One of the better jokes of the night was when a lady getting Best Foreign Film expressed her gratitude that LOR wasn't eligible in this category. You had the feeling that a lot of not necessarily very brilliant little boats were lifted up by the LOR tide, and that some good ships were sunk by it.

I agreed with Ronnie Ancona, one the BBC commentary team taking up the slack during the US TV commercials, who said that they didn't have enough song and dance razamatazz type numbers, and in particular they should have had more dancing girls. True. However, my favorite (properly prepared I mean) performance was just Jack Black and a Very Tall Bloke singing a song called "You're Boring", the tune of which is apparently played at the end of every acceptance speech, but which, as they proved, also has lyrics. Jack Black has now entirely replaced the late John Candy as Hollywood's official Senior Fat Man.

Michael Jennings has more.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:56 PM
Category: MoviesTV